In the space of little over a fortnight, England seem to have remembered how to play cricket and followed up their bottom-smacking of India in Mumbai with a strong start in Kolkata.
England’s bowling and fielding unit underpinned their march to number one and fought heroically against losing that tag in the UAE, before going walkabout for six months in the middle of 2012. In Mumbai, and now here as well, they have staggered back from the depths of “rubbishness”, through “competence” and into the blissful release of “excellence” once again. Jimmy Anderson laughed in the face of the Eden Gardens pitch and was outstanding throughout the day, despite the fact he’d have been given more help if he’d been bowling on a giant, 22-yard pancake instead, while he was ably supported by Monty Panesar and Steve Finn, and even Graeme Swann when he wasn’t sprinting to and from the bogs.
Today it’s best to split this award into two categories; that of ‘genuine’ moment of the day and ‘woefully inept and therefore completely hilarious’ moment of the day. The former would be Anderson’s removal of Sachin Tendulkar, looking on course for his first Test century since 1873, late in the day, which swung the spoils in England’s favour. Not least because it exposed India’s lower order before close, which England’s dreamy senior paceman took advantage of by sending Ravi Ashwin scuttling back to the dressing room as well for good measure.
The latter award was sewn up after about an hour of the Test, as Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag combined to display perhaps the worst piece of running ever witnessed outside of Owais Shah’s back garden. It had everything; lazy initial running, a total lack of communication and a wonderfully slapstick finale as Gambhir turned his back on Sehwag, marooned half-way down the wicket, and barely watched his lumbering partner abandon all semblance of poise and grace in a forlorn attempt at salvation. From that moment on, England were in the game.
Wrap this innings up in the first half hour, bat massive and stroll into a first innings lead by the end of the day. Easy game.
It will probably prove just a tad more difficult than that, as England are notoriously rubbish at getting out crap batsmen and that’s all India have left. The biggest danger is Dhoni blasts his side to a score far in excess of what they should end up with and shifts the momentum, although a competent Dhoni innings is about as regular a phenomenon as Halley’s Comet or Sachin Tendulkar making double figures nowadays. When England’s turn comes to bat, they need their Mumbai heads on rather than their regular 2012 ones and they need to bat big. Batting last on this track could prove tricky indeed.